Cheech Marin: The Best Art Curator in The City


Wanna get excited about art? Just listen to Cheech Marin talk about paintings for ten minutes and you’ll be as jazzed about it as he is. The actor/director/performer has amassed the largest collection of Chicano art and presented “Chicano Art—Perspectives of an Art Advocate” at the Malibu Civic Center as part of the Malibu Public Library’s Speaker series this month. Here’s what I picked up from Marin:

How long has he been collecting Chicano art?

“I’ve been collecting since 1985. I’ve always been an art lover all my life. I trained myself in art history—trained myself at the library. Paintings in particular. Then when I got some money, I started collecting art. The big gap in my knowledge was contemporary art, so I started going to galleries on the Westside.” Marin is currently the largest collector of Chicano art, with more than 700 pieces in his collection.

Since 1985? Where does he keep everything?

“In storage. I put as much on tour as I can. Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection is on tour now. My mantra is you can’t love or hate Chicano art unless you see it.”

Why talks? Why Malibu?

“Performing/acting and these art talks are both kinda the same, putting on a show for the people. I don’t get nervous—completely relaxed. It’s one of the things I do best. Why Malibu? I used to live in Malibu for about 40 years.”

Marin hit the stage with his slides of works by artists like Gronk, Patssi Valdez, and George Yepes among dozens of others. His passion for the art that reflects his childhood is contagious. He also signed copies of the book Chicanitas: Small Paintings from the Cheech Marin Collection, “Vermeer made me realize that size doesn’t matter. What matters is what is in the frame,” he said, showing some of the works from Chicanitas. “You spend more time with with smaller paintings—you have to get closer to them to see.” He went on to say, “Good paintings are alive.” The next time Marin talks Chicano art, go and listen or check out an exhibition.

Photograph by Melissa Richardson Banks @DowntownMuse/